EXPERT INSIGHTS: 'Tis The Season To Focus On Fresh

There’s no time like the holidays for lavish feasts and decadent treats, which means it’s time for consumers to start decking their fridges and pantries with food for year-end entertaining. So when December hits, shoppers up the ante when it comes to stocking their baskets with fresh foods, when family and friends begin gathering to indulge on holiday favorites like turkeys, pies and sweet potatoes.

Because quality and selection in the fresh departments is an important driver of shoppers’ store choice, enticing shoppers with fresh options in December can mean winning the entire holiday basket and generating the highest sales of the year.

The week of Christmas is a gift to fresh food sales. Behind Thanksgiving, it’s the highest-selling week of the year, and fresh food sales are 8 percent higher than average. Fresh foods account for 32 percent of total food sales during that week (compared with the 30 percent annual average).

Winning in fresh is critical around Christmas, because losing the holiday basket could be more costly than any other time throughout the year.

Competition for the fresh-focused holiday basket is greater than ever. While traditional grocery stores are the leaders in fresh food sales, other retail channels – including supercenters, club, dollar and even drug stores – are responding to growing consumer demand by delivering greater availability and assortment of fresh foods.

So how does a retailer gain the competitive edge and win the holiday basket?

Fresh Foods That Matter Most

Many fresh food staples should be available year-round, but certain categories deserve extra attention during Christmas. Eighty-two percent or more of U.S. households purchase the top 10 fresh food categories year-round, so ensuring the availability, quality and price of these key fresh categories is critical during Christmas week.

  • Beef
  • Bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Chicken
  • Tomatoes
  • Deli Bulk Meat
  • Packaged Salad
  • Processed Lunch Meat
  • Pork

December Holiday Destination Categories

But consumers aren’t only looking for the top 10 food categories during the holidays. Other fresh products become key destination categories as well. These fresh foods are more likely to be in the Christmas basket than other weeks throughout the year, making availability and strategic promotional strategies essential.

Other Top Fresh Foods

Fresh Food Category Greater Purchase Likelihood the Week of Christmas
Hams 2.3 x more likely
Nuts & Seeds  1.6 x more likely
Breakfast Sausage 1.4 x more likely
Celery 1.4 x more likely
Shrimp 1.4 x more likely
Citrus  1.3 x more likely
Deli Specialty Cheese 1.3 x more likely
Potatoes    1.2 x more likely
Bacon   1.2 x more likely
Herbs, Spices & Seasonings 1.2 x more likely

Source: Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts Shopper Insights Powered by Spire

Fresh can bring shoppers into the store, but retailers can further build the holiday basket by understanding the important categories within the center aisles of the store at Christmas, and leveraging them in conjunction with fresh using promotions, signage and displays for products that fit together in traditional Thanksgiving dishes. These 10 center-store categories are up to twice as likely to be in the average U.S. shopper’s holiday basket compared with the rest of the year.

Top Non-Fresh Categories

Non-Fresh Food Category Greater Purchase Likelihood the Week of Christmas
Baking Ingredients 2 x more likely
Cream Cheese 1.7 x more likely
Refrigerated Dough 1.6 x more likely
Sour Cream  1.5 x more likely
Sugar 1.4 x more likely
Butter 1.4 x more likely
Baking Mixes 1.3 x more likely
Eggs 1.2 x more likely
Cheese  1.1 x more likely
Carbonated Soft Drinks 1.1 x more likely

Source: Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts Shopper Insights Powered by Spire

As one of the highest-selling weeks of the entire year, Christmas is a critical time to ensure the proper fresh food strategies to help bring shoppers into your store, while leveraging products across aisles to build the holiday basket.

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